Can Money Buy Happiness?

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Aristotle famously determined, "Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." Though most Americans would not dispute this dictate evidence suggests Americans believe the most typical and direct route to happiness is by way of money. Many have come to believe money can buy happiness.

In a literal sense money cannot buy happiness, as happiness is a feeling. Happiness is a state or condition of
contentment or satisfaction, jubilation or joy. Happiness ultimately is an internal sensation, a state of being.
Dollars cannot create a permanent state of happiness, but seemingly money can generate temporary elation.

Though money cannot buy happiness it can buy freedom and opportunity like nothing else. Having money, and the power that money represents, affords the possessor the ability to pursue a host of options and opportunities in the material world. When you have money you can live where you want, do what you want, travel where you may and in general, "live the good life." One must, however, be wary of the dichotomy of power.

We tend to think the more money or power we have, the freer we are, and in turn the happier we will be. Buried within the equation of power and freedom is responsibility. The more things you possess, the more commitments you have, often the less time you end up calling your own. The owner becomes slave to possessions.

By way of a simple example, consider if you were to purchase a boat. Your vision would likely be of relaxing trips on the water, enjoying the wind and waves, fishing and other water sports with family and friends. Realize, however, along with the boat comes responsibilities: cleaning, maintenance, storage, transportation, insurance, licensing, and so on. Does the notion of freedom tied up in the boat lose some appeal?

If you buy the big house you have to work to keep up with the mortgage. If you drive the expensive, luxury car you take on another debt, greater insurance costs and increased concern about theft and parking. If you own or run a business the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders - responsibility for hiring, firing, disciplining employees, determining product lines, marketing, distribution, customer service and a multitude of other tasks. It seems the more you possess, the more power you have, the more responsibility and stress you face - hardly a formula for happiness.

We live in a dualistic world. Every force has an equal and opposing force. Every decision, every choice, presents an opportunity cost - the value of what might have been, had the choice been different. Money and power bring responsibility - responsibility that can confine. Select carefully what you want. It would be a shame to acquire all the stuff you believe will bring you happiness to then spend all your time and energy working to maintain those things.

As Frederick Keonig once offered, "We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."

The key, to achieve the ultimate objective - happiness, is to know what you want, what makes you happy. Focus your time, energy and talents on those activities, not in pursuit of happiness but for the intrinsic satisfaction those activities provide. Happiness is an elusive prey. So seek not happiness, rather engage in worthwhile pursuits - in the end you will be happy.

Money can't buy happiness. Happiness is both far too valuable and so readily at hand. Money is not a prerequisite nor a requirement for happiness. The sooner you realize this truth, the sooner your life can become full and fulfilling.

About the Author:

Scott F. Paradis, author of "Promise and Potential: A Life of Wisdom, Courage, Strength and Will" publishes "Insights" and a free weekly ezine "Money, Power and the Path to True Prosperity." Subscribe now at

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